Phnom Penh [AFP]
Cambodia has pardoned and released ten female land activists jailed over protests last year, following an outcry over their arrests.
King Norodom Sihamoni granted a royal pardon to the activists – including a 75-year-old woman known locally as ‘Mommy’ – who were released on Saturday, said Am Sam Ath of rights group Licadho, which provided legal assistance to the women.
‘We regret that they made no mistake but were convicted and jailed,’ he said.
In November the 10 women and a defrocked Buddhist monk were each sentenced to a year in prison for blocking traffic or obstructing the work of officials during protests in Phnom Penh.
Cambodia’s Appeal Court later reduced eight of their jail terms to 10 months while the sentence for the eldest campaigner was cut to six months. The one-year sentences for prominent rights activist Tep Vanny and the monk were upheld.
Vanny told AFP she was happy to see her family again now the ‘fake convictions’ had been dropped but vowed to continue campaigning.
‘We should not have been jailed for even a minute. We did not commit any wrongdoing… We just tried to protect our rights,’ she said.
Ath told AFP the monk was also granted a royal pardon but faces another court case and may be released on bail Monday.
Government officials could not immediately be reached for comment.
Most of the activists are from the few dozen families remaining in the capital’s Boeung Kak neighbourhood – an area from which about 4,000 families were forcibly evicted to make way for a real-estate development.